We spent a good few days exploring the town of Quito but to be perfectly honest, we wanted to spend more! There is just so much to see and do! While exploring the town of Quito is fantastic and is something we highly recommend doing, for nature lovers and adventurers like us, Quito has some awesome trips which you can easily do within a day. So while in Quito, here are a few of the day trips that you shouldn’t miss out on doing.
A Visit to the Otavalo Market
The town of Otavalo is home to one of the busiest markets in the Andes. It isn’t like your average market but instead, a fiesta of some sort where people trade, buy and display their goods. Anything you can think of from textile, handmade goods, to livestock is available in the market. The Otavaleños (locals in Otavalo) are known for their incredible weaving and textile making skills so definitely don’t pass up the chance to walk around. For those who are a little squeamish when it comes to animals, you might want to avoid the livestock section as you can see cattle, lambs, and pigs being traded and paraded around. The best thing about the market is seeing the bright colorful textile but also the local people wearing their traditional clothing of embroidered white floral blouses and skirts. While I wish my Spanish was good enough to hold out a proper conversation, for the most part, I smiled at them and they beamed back.
How to do it DIY: Getting to Otavalo Market is a bit of a mission if you use public transport. From the center of Quito, you will need to go to a bus terminal called Carcelen. From there, you have to catch another bus to Otavalo Market which takes up to 2 hours. The entire journey will be around 3-4 hours each way so make sure you leave early in the morning to make the most out of your trip. Alternatively, you can also do a guided tour which is much more convenient. The tour guide will also be able to give insight on the history of the market and translate some basic words for you if you had any questions.
Go Adventuring in Mindo
Another popular day trip that you can do is go adventuring in Mindo, a small town located in the foothills of the Andean mountains. Mindo is well known for its cloud-forest which you zoom through via zipline! Located just two hours from Quito, the Mindo-Nambillo Cloud Forest is full of over 500 species of birds, various exotic plants, and butterflies and is a great day trip for nature lovers. In Mindo, you can explore the forest, go ziplining, visit a chocolate factory, visit a butterfly and hummingbird farm, and even take a taking a dip by the nearby river to cool yourself. Some places also offer tubing by the river which is also lots of good fun!
Enjoy the Views from the Antisana Ecological Reserve
Another interesting trip to go on is to visit the Antisana Ecological Reserve which is about 100km away from Quito. The entire area is hidden in the Andes Mountains and is a reserve which spans 120,000 hectares. Apart from the striking scenery, you can also find a dense forest, lush lakes, and a variety of wildlife ranging from dears, wild horses, alpacas, and condors. In the area, you have the Micacocha lagoon which is the biggest in the reserve as well as the Muerte Pungu Lagoon which has fishing. The Santa Lucia Lagoon offers a bit of fishing and is a good campsite for those that want to stay in the wilderness. Most day trips will take you on a short hike to a stunning view point to see the panoramic views of the National Park and the lagoons. Spotting condors and birds are also popular activities while in the area as there is an abundance of them.
Explore the Famous Cotopaxi Volcano by Bike
One of the best things to do while in Quito is to see the Cotopaxi Volcano, one of Ecuador’s most visited and climbed volcano. While you can hike to the very top fo the volcano, it will take longer than a day and should only be done with a guide as scaling up the glaciers can get tricky. Instead, consider going on a day trip where you can trek up to see the glaciers and the thick patches of snow and ice mixed in with the ash and volcanic debris. The entire place is breathtaking and is a must do while in Quito. For those who want to take it to the next level, a tour company, Carpe DM allows you to explore the area and bike downhill via mountain bikes which are super fun! The rugged terrain combined with the scenic views makes the entire experience memorable. In Spanish, this National Park is called Parque Nacional Cotopaxi and is located about 50km of Quito.
Related: Like adventure? Explore the many adventurous things to do in Baños, Ecuador
Trekking to Quilotoa Lake
Aside from Cotopaxi, another popular trip to do is to trek to see the Quilotoa Lake. While most people opt to see the Quilotoa Lake by going on an epic five-day guided tour following what they call the Quilotoa Loop, for those pressed for time, you can explore this water-filled volcano by going on a quick day trip from Quito. Here, you will see the stunning emerald lagoon located inside the volcano crater. It is absolutely beautiful and worth seeing! The best part about seeing the lake is the local villages near the area which you will have a chance to visit. The last eruption that took place was around 800 years ago and the lake in the caldera was formed by the collapse of the volcano after its eruption.
How to Do These Day Trips from Quito: Carpe DM Adventures
While some of these tours you can do yourself (like the Otavalo Market), the best and easiest way is by arranging them using a guided tour. We personally recommend Carpe DM Adventures, a company we used the to explore the Amazon Jungle with. The entire team is super professional, lovely, and helpful! Plus their day tours are awesome because most of them include a fun and adventurous side to it like mountain biking, zip lining, and trekking. The guides are extremely knowledgeable, offering valuable insider’s perspective towards that tours that you are doing.
Other Trips and Activities in Quito
So apart from these popular day trips, other activities that you can look into is visiting the hot springs in Papallacta which range from ice cold to boiling hot! This is located about 2 hours east and is better down during the weekday as it tends to get packed. Apart from that, a trip to La Mitad del Mundo is also a must but is easily done on your own rather than with a tour group. Here, you can visit the two sites which claim they are at the center of the earth and take as many cheesy photos as you can.
There you have it! As you can see, Quito is a city that is jam packed with historical sights, beautiful landscapes, and natural resources. Visiting and staying for a couple of days is something we definitely recommend.
Check out the other things we did around Ecuador for more inspiration
- Best Galapagos Liveaboard Experience
- Extreme Paragliding in Baños Ecuador
- Exploring Isla de la Plata: Poor Man’s Galapagos